Welcone to Honourable Justice Peter Vickery

Date: 28 May 2008
Author/Organisation: Tony Burke - Law Institute of Victoria

Address on the occasion of the welcome on Wednesday 28 May 2008 to the Honourable Justice Peter Vickery upon his appointment to the Supreme Court of Victoria by Anthony Burke, President of the Law Institute of Victoria

1. May it please the Court.

2. I appear on behalf of the Law Institute of Victoria, and the solicitors of this State, to congratulate Your Honour on your appointment to this Court.

3. Those who have had the privilege of instructing you over the years congratulate you most sincerely on your appointment. They will miss you.

4. As counsel, you were always willing to take on the hard cases involving principles in which you believed.

5. You worked immensely hard - often at fees that were little more than nominal; often entirely pro bono.

6. Your passion for justice - your extraordinary industry, often long into the night - and occasionally, all night - and your gifts of:

· identifying the key issues; and

· articulating arguments that were lucid, simple and direct;

will equip you well for your new office as a Judge.

7. As weve heard, you attended Melbourne Grammar School. You rowed in the first VIII, and were Captain of Boats; you played in the first XV; and you were a Cadet Under-Officer.

8. You were also the School Captain.

9. You are now a leading International Human Rights Lawyer. One wonders whether your Human Rights colleagues and friends would look askance were they to know that in your youth you personally administered corporal punishment.

10. That was one of the duties of the Captain of the School -- and one that your now-judicial-brother, Justice Harper, had performed 6 years earlier.

11. Your Honour was surely destined for the law.

12. Your late father was a County Court judge for more than 20 years and authored what was, for several generations of lawyers, their principal practice book: Vickerys Motor & Traffic Law.

13. Your father was also a soldier, enlisting at the outbreak of World War II, and seeing active service all through the War.

14. He ended the War as a Major, but remained in the service. Thus, eventually his full title: Major General, His Honour Judge Vickery, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Military Cross, Efficiency Decoration.

15. In 1998, the day after your fathers death, you were on a plane to Canberra to argue, pro bono, a criminal appeal to the High Court.

16. It wasnt even your case. Senior Counsel who had prepared the appeal was jammed, and you took it on.

17. On the way up in the plane, your instructing solicitor told you of an address hed just read by New South Wales Chief Justice Spigelman. Spigelman told the story of Sir Owen Dixon asking a group of students "Who is the most important person in a trial?"

18. Dixons answer was:- the litigant who loses the case. If that person leaves court knowing that the trial has been fair, justice will have been done.

19. You said that reflected your fathers philosophy - and that your father had died yesterday.

20. Your instructor was dismayed, and said you should have told him and not taken the case.

21. You responded that your father would have wanted you to do that pro bono appeal.

22. You worked on that case all night in your Canberra hotel room - substantially re-casting the arguments.

23. You persuaded the 7 Judges of the High Court to hear the new arguments, and argued the case all day.

24. The angels were on your side of the facts, but immunity was against you.

25. You had, however, the satisfaction that Justice Kirby, in a concurring judgment, recorded your authorities and arguments on the merits.

26. The substance of your authorities and arguments was the basis for another High Court decision in another case - one in which there was no immunity issue.

27. Getting back to your family history in the law, most people know of your father. But few know of the legal tradition on your mothers side.

28. Your parents met in first year Law at the University of Melbourne - your father newly returned from war; your mother had completed Arts, and went on to study law.

29. Your maternal great-great-grandfather, Konrad Wolkowinski was a barrister and a Judge in pre-revolution Russia, as was one of his sons.

30. During the revolution, that son fled to Poland, and his son completed law at the University of Warsaw, fought in the Polish Army, and later emigrated and taught law in the United Kingdom.

31. So you have a deep lineage in the law.

32. You also had substantial experience as a solicitor before you went to the Bar.

33. In addition to your articles year with Hugh Graham and your year-or-so as an employee solicitor with Madden Butler, you worked with Bishop & Co, Solicitors, in London.

34. Back in Melbourne and whilst teaching at La Trobe University, you were a Consultant to PC Neil, Solicitor in North Carlton.

35. And in 1977, you had a small, part-time practice as a sole practitioner in your own name, also in North Carlton, before going to the Bar.

36. In more than 30 years practice at the Bar, you won the respect and affection of solicitors and clients alike.

37. One client, Jinks Nolan, brought fresh croissants for you and your friends in Aickin Chambers each day of her case.

38. She lives in Boston and is delighted to learn of your appointment - though she now wants a re-play of her case with you as the Judge.

39. Your instructor in the Bass Highway case - at about 7 months, now the longest civil trial in Tasmanian history - rented an apartment in Salamanca Place.

40. For the whole of that marathon in Hobart - except when you dined out -trying to avoid your opponents when you did so - John Pilley cooked for you.

41. John is a Jamie Oliver fan and a good cook. At his hands, you ad brown trout he had just caught - as well as superb delicacies from the nearby delicatessen.

42. As John observes, Your Honour may not be the greatest at cooking or the other minutiae of domestic tasks - but you certainly were a great barrister.

43. And you are generous towards all who work with you.

44. At the end of the Highway Case, you had "Hagley House" medals struck for the whole of your team. Hagley House was the 1826 house whose spectacular view of the Hagley Church steeple was one of several issues in that case.

45. You presented those medals at a feast you threw for them at the Mexethes ["Me - see - dis"] Greek Restaurant in Hobart - at which you all indulged in the traditional smashing of glasses.

46. You and your wife Claire have an interest in wine,

sharing the management of the Dancing Man Vineyard. She has deep roots in wine, being the daughter of the late Dr John Middleton of the Mount Mary winery in the Yarra Valley.

47. It was probably a good decision to drop the name "Vickers Hill" - though one cant help wondering whether the name "Dancing Man" might involve a subconscious echo of the Scottish Country Dancing of your youth in London.

48. Justice Bell has the Hurley vineyard at Balnarring. Justice Judd has the Ten Minutes by Tractor vineyard at Main Ridge, Mornington.

49. But I doubt that either of them can boast a Lamborghini twin turbo tractor - an enhancement acquired with the proceeds of sale of your Audi sports car.

50. On behalf of the Law Institute and the solicitors of this State, I wish Your Honour well in your appointment to this Court. May you have long, satisfying and distinguished service.

51. May it please the Court.

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